NOIRS 1997 Abstracts of the National Occupational Injury Research Symposium 1997. Washington, DC: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1997 Oct; :34
Eye injuries are a preventable occupational injury, yet the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that eye injuries account for about 4% of lost work time accidents. Analysis of workers' compensation data provides an opportunity to determine the nature of eye injury in the workplace and to target intervention efforts to higher risk industries and occupations and eventually to individual employers with high incidence rates. West Virginia is one of only a few states that has an exclusive state-managed workers' compensation insurance fund and does not allow private third-party compensation insurance coverage, although it does allow some companies to self-insure (less than 1% of all companies). We examined 4422 compensable eye injury claims from the West Virginia Workers' Compensation Program for July 1995 through June 1996. The eye injury claims accounted for about 7.6% of the total number of injury claims (58325) during the one-year period. Eighty-seven percent of the claimants are male. The average age of claimants was 35 years, ranging from 14 to 74 years of age, with 85% of the workers in the age range of 20 to 49 years. Sixty percent of the injuries were caused by various particulate type materials and 23% were caused by chemicals, gases, fumes, or liquids. The major types of accident events were "rubbed or abraded" (60%), "struck by" (20%), "bodily reaction" (7%), and "contact with radiations, caustics, and toxic substances" (6%). The nature of the injury was mostly foreign bodies in the eye (70%) with a fewer number of cuts, punctures, and abrasions (13%) and chemical and radiation burns (7%). Less than 1% of the total number of injuries were caused by imbedded splinters or chips or punctures. In 82% of the claims the injury involved only one eye, whereas in 10% of the claims both eyes were injured (8% were not specifically identified). For those claims in which both eyes were injured, the proportion doubled for accidents caused by chemicals, gases, fumes, and liquids (47%) and tripled for accidents caused by contact with radiations, caustics, and toxic substances (21%). Contact with temperature and pressure extremes increased to 8% in comparison to only 2% for all eye injuries. There was also a dramatic increase in burn injuries from 7% for all eye injuries to 34% of injuries involving both eyes. In summary, the West Virginia Workers' Compensation data provide an excellent opportunity to profile minor as well as serious eye injuries in the workplace.